Celebrate the past but live into the future

A number of years ago our family became owners of a successful small business. All of the long-time employees remained, and business was good for several years. Slowly, things began to slow down. We blamed the downturn on a number of things and thought things would return back to normal soon. They didn’t, and then the recession of 2008 hit. We were finished. I published an ebook on the experience titled Mistakes: Avoiding the Wrong Decisions That Will Close Your Small Business to help others avoid the mistakes I made.

One of the major mistakes was believing that what had made that business successful in the past would continue to work in the future. It became easier for our customers to work with our competitors than with us. We thought we had top-of-the-mind (TOMA) awareness in our community and learned that we were not even in the top three businesses people considered. We failed to use the technology available to us that would allow us to work smarter. Although we provided quality products and service, we continued to lose business because we remained stuck in the past.

One of the saddest days of my life was the day everything was sold at auction for pennies on the dollar. All I could think about were the people who had started that business from scratch 40+ years earlier and my employees who now had to find other jobs. It didn’t help that we took a hefty personal financial hit as well.

Looking back I should have celebrated the past instead of trying to continue to live in it. We should have taken advantage of the many technologies and resources that were available to us. I learned too late that what brought us here would not take us there. The field was changing, and we refused to change with it.

Change is never easy. We like to live in our ruts because everyone knows what expected of us. However, we need to remember that a rut is nothing more than a grave with both ends kicked out. Stay in a rut long enough and eventually someone will begin to throw dirt over top of you.

I grew up hearing “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What I now know is “If it ain’t broke, break it because it’s going to change soon anyway.” If you want to have a successful business, a successful life, a successful family you have to learn to adapt to the changes that are constantly occurring.

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